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Are Experiments the Only Option? A Look at Dropout Prevention Programs

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  • Roberto Agodini

    (Mathematica Policy Research, Inc)

  • Mark Dynarski

    (Mathematica Policy Research, Inc)

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    Abstract

    By comparing experimental and propensity-score impact estimates of dropout prevention programs, we examine whether propensity-score methods produce unbiased estimates of program impacts. We find no consistent evidence that such methods replicate experimental impacts in our setting. This finding holds even when the data available for matching are extensive. Our findings suggest that evaluators who plan to use nonexperimental methods, such as propensity-score matching, need to consider carefully how programs recruit individuals and why individuals enter programs, as unobserved factors may exert powerful influences on outcomes that are not easily captured using nonexperimental methods. © 2004 President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by MIT Press in its journal Review of Economics and Statistics.

    Volume (Year): 86 (2004)
    Issue (Month): 1 (February)
    Pages: 180-194

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    Handle: RePEc:tpr:restat:v:86:y:2004:i:1:p:180-194

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    Cited by:
    1. Colacelli, Mariana & Blackburn, David J.H., 2009. "Secondary currency: An empirical analysis," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(3), pages 295-308, April.
    2. Imbens, Guido & Abadie, Alberto, 2008. "On the Failure of the Bootstrap for Matching Estimators," Scholarly Articles 3043415, Harvard University Department of Economics.
    3. Richard P. Nathan, 2008. "The role of random assignment in social policy research," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 27(2), pages 401-415.
    4. Wendy Janssens, 2005. "Measuring Externalities in Program Evaluation," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 05-017/2, Tinbergen Institute, revised 30 Mar 2006.
    5. Handa, Sudhanshu & Pineda, Heiling & Esquivel, Yannete & Lopez, Blancadilia & Gurdian, Nidia Veronica & Regalia, Ferdinando, 2009. "Non-formal basic education as a development priority: Evidence from Nicaragua," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 28(4), pages 512-522, August.
    6. Thomas D. Cook & William R. Shadish & Vivian C. Wong, 2008. "Three conditions under which experiments and observational studies produce comparable causal estimates: New findings from within-study comparisons," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 27(4), pages 724-750.
    7. Wendy Janssens, 2005. "Measuring Externalities in Program Evaluation," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 05-017/2, Tinbergen Institute, revised 30 Mar 2006.
    8. Elizabeth Ty Wilde & Robinson Hollister, 2007. "How close is close enough? Evaluating propensity score matching using data from a class size reduction experiment," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 26(3), pages 455-477.
    9. Sudhanshu Handa & John A. Maluccio, 2010. "Matching the Gold Standard: Comparing Experimental and Nonexperimental Evaluation Techniques for a Geographically Targeted Program," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 58(3), pages 415-447, 04.
    10. Justine Burns & Malcolm Kewsell & Rebecca Thornton, 2009. "Evaluating the Impact of Health Programmes," SALDRU Working Papers 40, Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit, University of Cape Town.
    11. Malcolm Keswell & Justine Burns & Rebecca Thornton, 2012. "Evaluating the Impact of Health Programmes on Productivity," African Development Review, African Development Bank, vol. 24(4), pages 302-315.
    12. Bridget Terry Long & Michal Kurlaender, 2008. "Do Community Colleges provide a Viable Pathway to a Baccalaureate Degree?," NBER Working Papers 14367, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Hämäläinen, Kari & Uusitalo, Roope & Vuori, Jukka, 2008. "Varying biases in matching estimates: Evidence from two randomised job search training experiments," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(4), pages 604-618, August.
    14. Ravallion, Martin, 2008. "Evaluating Anti-Poverty Programs," Handbook of Development Economics, Elsevier.
    15. Maureen A. Pirog & Anne L. Buffardi & Colleen K. Chrisinger & Pradeep Singh & John Briney, 2009. "Are the alternatives to randomized assignment nearly as good? Statistical corrections to nonrandomized evaluations," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 28(1), pages 169-172.
    16. Kari Hämäläinen & Roope Uusitalo & Jukka Vuori, 2008. "Varying Biases in the Matching Estimates: Evidence from Two Randomized Job Search Training Experiments," Discussion Papers 438, Government Institute for Economic Research Finland (VATT).
    17. Jean Stockard, 2013. "Merging the accountability and scientific research requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act: using cohort control groups," Quality & Quantity: International Journal of Methodology, Springer, vol. 47(4), pages 2225-2257, June.
    18. Rebecca A. Maynard, 2006. "Presidential address: Evidence-based decision making: What will it take for the decision makers to care?," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 25(2), pages 249-265.

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